We have already taken a look at Florida’s DUI laws, but have not addressed the specific crime of DUI manslaughter. When drunk driving results in a death, the result is often a charge of DUI manslaughter. This charge is a significant one, and your future can depend on a strong legal defense.
What is DUI manslaughter?
The crime of manslaughter occurs when one person causes another’s death without intending to do so, but through culpable negligence. Under Florida’s DUI law, DUI manslaughter happens when:
- A person whose blood alcohol level exceeds the legal .08 limit;
- Operates a vehicle; and
- Thereby causes or contributes to the death of any human being or unborn child.
DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony, punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison. But it becomes a first-degree felony if the person who commits the crime:
- Knew or should have known at the time that a crash had occurred; and
- Failed to stop to give information and render aid.
A first-degree felony is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 30 years in prison. (See the Official Website of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.)
How long are typical DUI manslaughter sentences?
In mid-2015, the Miami Herald looked at records regarding more than 400 DUI fatality cases resolved in Florida since 2012 to see what the statewide sentencing averages might be. According to the Herald, the average statewide sentence for DUI manslaughter is just under 10 years in prison. Average sentence length varies by county – for example, the average sentence in Miami-Dade is just under 6 years, while in Palm Beach it is almost 12 years. The Herald points out that in 2007, the legislature enacted a 4-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for DUI manslaughter. This 2007 law was known as the “Adam Arnold Act,” named after a Key West teenager killed by a drunk driver in a 1996 crash. The driver in that case received a sentence of three years’ probation.
Even with the 4-year minimum, DUI manslaughter sentences can vary widely, depending on a variety of factors, including the strength of the evidence, the quality of the lawyers, the defendant’s history, and what the victim’s loved ones want. Consider these two cases and their outcomes, as described in the Herald article:
- 20-year-old Kayla Mendoza tweeted “2 drunk 2 care” before driving drunk the wrong way and killing two young women. Although she pleaded guilty with no plea deal and willingly gave two depositions to help the victims’ families in their civil suit against her employer and the restaurant where she drank, the judge sentenced her to 24 years in prison.
- 27-year-old Edna Jean-Pierre killed one person in a drunk-driving crash, and then another in a hit-and-run while out on bail for the DUI killing. Jean-Pierre was a nurse, but left the scene of the hit-and-run to take her car to a body shop for immediate repairs. She also took responsibility, and received a 4-year jail sentence.
Consult an Orlando DUI manslaughter lawyer
Prison time in a DUI manslaughter case in Florida is a near certainty if you are convicted. An effective criminal defense lawyer can spot the holes in the prosecution’s case and help you present the best arguments and evidence in your defense. The Orlando and Miami lawyers of The Baez Law Firm are known throughout Florida and the country for their effective and aggressive legal strategies in defense of their clients. Contact us today about your case.